Following on from last month's post Five Reasons Why Your Leaders Need to Focus on Social Performance, I’d like to look at what you - as a leader - can do to make a difference in this area.
As discussed in that previous blog, your organisation’s response to social responsibility will influence your employees, your customers, and your community. Supporting these social values and commitments might include improving workplace conditions, wellbeing and diversity, or identifying structures for acting ethically and responsibly in your society.
Our last blog showed how everyone has a role in shaping and advancing the Social Performance agenda within their organisation - and, as leaders, this is even more important. This post then, will look at three leadership roles and help you identify your opportunities to develop social performance.
What Your Socially Responsible Business Needs from You
Workplace Experience Leader
For you, the Workplace Experience Leader, we’re going to focus on employee wellbeing and engagement.
Your Fair and Inclusive Workspace
Did you know that - according to Bupa - “Two in five (43%) employees with a less visible disability haven't disclosed it to their employer”? Key reasons given for this were not wanting to cause a fuss (30%) or be treated differently (25%).
Bupa announced these findings while announcing their partnership with ParalympicsGB, a partnership they hope will allow them to “collaborate to challenge perceptions around disability in society, celebrating difference and diversity in order to help everyone achieve their goals”. Bupa suggests a number of things which will help companies develop more inclusive workplaces including encouraging flexibility - whether in locations, working hours or more, and considering your message - ensuring language and images are inclusive and not ableist.
Whether we’re looking at inclusion for those with disabilities, or promoting racial and gender equality too, this article from Gallup tells us that while 97% of HR leaders report they are improving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), only 37% of employees strongly agree. The article points out that providing employment opportunities is only one element; “If employee uniqueness is a barrier to advancement or a catalyst for disrespect, leaders might be alienating the talented people who drive their organisation forward.”
It’s essential to ensure your company is recognising the uniqueness and individuality of its people while treating them fairly and with equity, this means creating opportunities for their growth and wellbeing whoever they are.
In our article Employee Experience - Who Benefits from an Employee-Centred Environment?, we looked at how it benefits organisations to provide flexibility and spaces that work for their people.
Creating a Space for Dialogue
Employees will only be engaged if they feel valued and listened to, how will you ensure your people feel able to bring up any worries or concerns they have?
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) talks about employee voice having two distinct forms - the individual voice where employees can share their opinions and make suggestions at a personal level, the collective voice such as unions and staff forums. They give recommendations for employers on establishing two-way communication and creating the right culture to encourage such exchanges.
It’s important you find the right tools to support your organisation, there are a number of platforms available which will provide anonymous surveys for your teams, feedback to your management, and even recommendations for further actions.
In our article Creating a Brighter Future - Physical Spaces that Promote an Inclusive Work Environment, we talked about this - and about making the most of employee feedback and allowing it to direct your business development.
Learning and Development Leader
For you, the Learning and Development Leader, we’re going to focus on creating inclusive and equitable opportunities for growth.
Providing Diverse Learning Programmes
Creating learning and development programmes that cater to diverse learning styles and backgrounds is crucial. We know that employees have different preferences and needs when it comes to learning, influenced by their cultural backgrounds, education, and personal experiences.
By tailoring programs to accommodate these differences, organisations can ensure more effective and inclusive learning experiences which make the most out of your people.
A recent report from Business in the Community (BITC) tells us that “Two-thirds of lower-skilled employees have had no company-funded development opportunities in the past two years compared to 38% of higher-skilled workers”.
While there are many elements that feed into this, the outcome is a stalling of social mobility for those in lower-skilled work - affecting predominantly ethnically diverse people, women, and disabled people as these groups are over-represented in this area (according to the Department of Work and Pensions).
As organisations, the tools and styles we use for learning at work will keep changing. We’ve written articles about microlearning and Learning in the Flow of Work (LitFoW), which show how these new opportunities can be utilised to support your employee development.
These solutions, along with others making use of AI and Virtual Reality, can provide incredible flexibility and simplified methods of delivery which will work better for some people than courses which take them away from their tasks and other responsibilities.
Opportunities for Career Advancement
As I mentioned earlier when talking about your DEI in your workplace, it’s all very well providing opportunities for those with diverse needs and backgrounds, but we need to ensure that there are then no barriers to progress.
The BITC report outlining the lack of development opportunities for lower skilled workers, suggested that employers not only need to provide the right learning opportunities but also provide better communication of their benefits and better careers advice.
The survey showed that many of those identified as lower-skilled workers weren’t looking for opportunities to progress and didn’t know what would be required for them to move to more senior roles. This lack of engagement with their own career opportunities is likely to be influenced by a lack of clarity of what’s available.
Better communication is integral to improving employee engagement, both of which are needed to encourage your people to imagine their future within your organisation.
Digital Experience Leader
For you, the Digital Experience Leader, we’re going to focus on the digital experience monitoring and accessibility.
Digital Experience Monitoring
Digital Experience Monitoring is crucial for fostering a more inclusive, responsible, and connected corporate environment. We’ve talked a lot in the past about how important employee engagement is to your business success and creating the right digital experience for your people is a huge part of that.
In this article How Digital Experience Can Cut Costs and Improve Productivity, we looked at how the digital experience impacts employees' work-life balance, community and culture, their development opportunities and feelings of empowerment. We can particularly see how digital workspaces provide opportunities for companies to be more inclusive with greater flexibility and options for individualisation.
As well as these benefits to your team, the right technology will provide the tools for managers to understand individual employees’ workloads and stress, as well as opportunities for training.
Your social responsibilities also include your support for customers of course. Here the digital experience leader has a great impact, something we looked at in more detail in Total Experience - Smarter Technology Solutions for a Stronger Business.
While providing the right solutions for your people is key, monitoring them is the next step. Understanding how people (whether employees or customers) are using these technologies, their suitability and any difficulties they experience, will allow you to provide a better service for everyone.
Digital Accessibility and Technology for Social Good
Your digital solutions should be accessible for all with digital accessibility a key marker of your social performance. Whether we’re looking at your website or customer communications, employee systems or training resources, these should be designed with accessibility in mind. Have you developed solutions supporting those with eyesight or hearing difficulties, neurodiversity or mobility issues?
Equally, how are you supporting social mobility and technological disparities amongst your customers and community?
This Digital Skills and Inclusion Policy Paper from the UK government states that one in 10 adults has never used the internet, a potential problem for all companies looking to serve those individuals in an increasingly digital world. There are many programs to provide skills training and access to technology for those in our communities who are digitally excluded, what can your organisation do to help?
We talked a little about this in our post Closing the Digital Divide which looked at the effect of increasing digital services, when it is often those in our communities with least opportunity who are unable to take advantage of these. Whether we are considering the elderly, those in poverty, or those whose disabilities make these technologies inaccessible, it is up to those of us providing digital solutions to make these opportunities accessible to as many people as we can.
Social Responsibility isn’t Optional
Just like your environmental and governance responsibilities, fulfilling your social responsibility will bring benefits to your business as well as those you are supporting - as we mentioned in last month’s post.
Whatever your leadership position, you have a part to play in supporting your organisation’s social performance, I hope this has helped you see how.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.